June 19, 2018

Particles of Change

Cancer may be up against some of the brightest minds in the University of Mary Washington’s physics department.

That, and a collection of nanoparticles smaller than the human eye can see.

Physics Chair Hai Nguyen and rising senior physics and mathematics double major Pengcheng Zhang are crafting a project that could lead to groundbreaking cancer research.

This cutting-edge venture is nothing uncommon for the intimate group of students and faculty who make up the physics department, according to Nguyen. Driven, determined, communal and curious, students and faculty work on projects ranging from internships with NASA, giving presentations for adults and school-age children and testing the slowing of light with a full board of lasers.

Physics Chair Hai Nguyen and rising senior Pengcheng Zhang
Rising senior Pengcheng Zhang and Physics Chair Hai Nguyen

Their nanoparticle experiment, which has been in the works for close to a year, uses a specific laser light to test whether nanoparticles could enter the human body at certain temperatures without damaging the body itself. Research using the type of laser light, measuring a wavelength of 915 nanometers, has begun only as recently as 2011 in the scientific community, according to Zhang.

Results have yet to be documented of this laser’s effects on nanoparticles or how it could act in the body, particularly as some nanoparticles may have been found to attach to cancer cells.

Zhang and Nguyen, who meet a few hours a week to work on the project, aim to be among the first to document these results.

Though their experiment is no small feat, the particles they work with might be better seen under a microscope. According to Nguyen, fellow UMW physics assistant professor Josephus Ferguson and collaborators from Virginia Commonwealth University, their collection of nanoparticles measure approximately 32.5 nanometers. These particles are so small that if you lay them in your hand, they could slide through your skin into your body.

Working to challenge his students and give them a meaningful experience with potential real-world change, Nguyen kick-starts projects that also challenge and inspire him.

“What I want from my students is to have true ownership of what they do,” Nguyen said. “They take on [this project] and say that it’s theirs.”

Their goal is to record and publish their results in the hope that researchers who specialize in cancer treatment can pick up the experiment where they left off.

So far, the experiment and specialized equipment have cost $30,000 with funding and equipment from organizations like the University of Paris, Kansas State University and financial support from UMW’s Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Even still, Zhang has looked to offset the costs of the project by making tools at UMW they could not get anywhere else. Using a 3D printer and his skills in mathematics to create the exact dimensions, he designed an optical fiber adaptor.

Zhang has spent weekends and summers on the project, rushing from math classes across campus to reach the lab. He also presented the experiment for UMW’s Student Research and Creativity Symposium this year and last year and is doing two additional independent studies with the physics and math departments.

The possible real-world impact of the nanoparticle experiment has driven him to keep researching.

“This could be something that is very personal to everyone,” Zhang said of the experiment that has sparked interest across the chemistry and biology departments.

Physics has given him the chance to set down the textbook and take on projects that are both potentially risky and potentially rewarding.

“Physics is not as scary as you might think,” Zhang said, who plans to pursue a graduate program in mathematical physics. “It requires a logical mind and some persistence, but nothing more. Physics give you more curiosity, but more importantly, it gives you the ability to explore your curiosity.”

Particles of Change

Cancer may be up against some of the brightest minds in the University of Mary Washington’s physics department.

That, and a collection of nanoparticles smaller than the human eye can see.

Physics Chair Hai Nguyen and rising senior physics and mathematics double major Pengcheng Zhang are crafting a project that could lead to groundbreaking cancer research.

This cutting-edge venture is nothing uncommon for the intimate group of students and faculty who make up the physics department, according to Nguyen. Driven, determined, communal and curious, students and faculty work on projects ranging from internships with NASA, giving presentations for adults and school-age children and testing the slowing of light with a full board of lasers.

Physics Chair Hai Nguyen and rising senior Pengcheng Zhang
Rising senior Pengcheng Zhang and Physics Chair Hai Nguyen

Their nanoparticle experiment, which has been in the works for close to a year, uses a specific laser light to test whether nanoparticles could enter the human body at certain temperatures without damaging the body itself. Research using the type of laser light, measuring a wavelength of 915 nanometers, has begun only as recently as 2011 in the scientific community, according to Zhang.

Results have yet to be documented of this laser’s effects on nanoparticles or how it could act in the body, particularly as some nanoparticles may have been found to attach to cancer cells.

Zhang and Nguyen, who meet a few hours a week to work on the project, aim to be among the first to document these results.

Though their experiment is no small feat, the particles they work with might be better seen under a microscope. According to Nguyen, fellow UMW physics assistant professor Josephus Ferguson and collaborators from Virginia Commonwealth University, their collection of nanoparticles measure approximately 32.5 nanometers. These particles are so small that if you lay them in your hand, they could slide through your skin into your body.

Working to challenge his students and give them a meaningful experience with potential real-world change, Nguyen kick-starts projects that also challenge and inspire him.

“What I want from my students is to have true ownership of what they do,” Nguyen said. “They take on [this project] and say that it’s theirs.”

Their goal is to record and publish their results in the hope that researchers who specialize in cancer treatment can pick up the experiment where they left off.

So far, the experiment and specialized equipment have cost $30,000 with funding and equipment from organizations like the University of Paris, Kansas State University and financial support from UMW’s Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Even still, Zhang has looked to offset the costs of the project by making tools at UMW they could not get anywhere else. Using a 3D printer and his skills in mathematics to create the exact dimensions, he designed an optical fiber adaptor.

Zhang has spent weekends and summers on the project, rushing from math classes across campus to reach the lab. He also presented the experiment for UMW’s Student Research and Creativity Symposium this year and last year and is doing two additional independent studies with the physics and math departments.

The possible real-world impact of the nanoparticle experiment has driven him to keep researching.

“This could be something that is very personal to everyone,” Zhang said of the experiment that has sparked interest across the chemistry and biology departments.

Physics has given him the chance to set down the textbook and take on projects that are both potentially risky and potentially rewarding.

“Physics is not as scary as you might think,” Zhang said, who plans to pursue a graduate program in mathematical physics. “It requires a logical mind and some persistence, but nothing more. Physics give you more curiosity, but more importantly, it gives you the ability to explore your curiosity.”

One “Framily”

At the end of another hectic day, UMW senior Zaire Sprowal heads home. It’s a short stroll down a rolling hill on the edge of campus, past trees and brick pathways. Lampposts cast a glow on the benches that flank his front door.

Small, eclectic, and familial, Framar House is home to the International Living Center and 21 students from around the world. It’s three stories of multi-cultural, multi-lingual living. And it’s perfect for Sprowal, who grew up inspired by the wide range of people he encountered on the streets of New York. At UMW, he’s exploring a much smaller, but increasingly complex, population. Last year’s winner of the Citizenship and Diversity Award, he’s tossed himself into nearly every activity on campus, working to get a handle on specific group interests and how he can help represent them.

“He wants to make sure he does all that he can to help each student have a positive experience,” said James Farmer Multicultural Center Director Marion Sanford, who’s worked with Sprowal to kick-start diverse events on campus, including an interfaith forum and a #BlackLivesMatter discussion and vigil. “He wants to make a difference.”

Zaire Sprowal

That difference starts at his home away from home. Acquired by the University in 1946, Framar welcomes students from all over the world, with current inhabitants hailing coming from Italy, Germany, Mongolia and more. Housemates playfully call themselves a “Framily.”

“It’s the aggregate of so many experiences,” said Sprowal, vice president of Framar, which hosts annual campus hits such as Bhangra Beat and the Holi celebration.

But Sprowal doesn’t stop there. He’s immersed himself in everything from sports to science, philosophy to foreign language, music to mentoring.

This year alone, Sprowal has led multiple interfaith discussions with Fredericksburg-community religious leaders, has moderated an inter-departmental program about the Flint Water Crisis including faculty and students, was an integral role in bringing distinguished astronomer Heidi Hammel to UMW this semester and was the Student Government Association’s Diversity and Unity Coordinating Committee Chair.

In the classroom, this first-generation college student is one many physics majors who have completed research projects ranging from controlling a telescope in North Carolina to interning for NASA. This past summer, Sprowal snagged an internship in nuclear chemistry, analyzing the data of fusion reactions of neutron rich light nuclei for the University of Indiana. This summer, he will be doing an internship at Notre Dame this summer working with nuclear astrophysics.

After UMW, he plans to contribute towards developing alternative sources of energy such as hydrogen fusion and continue building understanding between himself and different underrepresented groups. For the next year, however, he’ll spend jam-packed days riding his bike along Campus Walk, attending meeting after meeting, returning each evening to Framar and his “Framily.”

“It’s one of the most bittersweet aspects about living in the house,” Sprowal said about saying farewell to graduating members and exchange students who leave. “The fact that we can all live so cohesively in this microcosm together, with such diverse backgrounds, gives us hope for the future of our world.”

Davidson Publishes Article in “Foreign Policy Analysis”

Jason Davidson, professor of political science and international affairs, co-authored and published an article in the peer-reviewed journal “Foreign Policy Analysis.” The article, titled “The Limits of Radical Parties in Coalition Foreign Policy: Italy, Hijacking, and the Extremity Hypothesis,” was written with Fabrizio Coticchia, assistant professor of political science at the University of Genoa and explores the role of radical political parties in Italy. The article can be viewed here.

 

 

Arbor Day Foundation Honors UMW

The Arbor Day Foundation has recognized the University of Mary Washington as a 2015 Tree Campus USA® for its work in practicing and promoting conservation on its campus. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, UMW fulfilled five core standards to achieve this distinction, including a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures […]

UMW Galleries Host Three New Exhibitions

The Galleries at the University of Mary Washington will be hosting three new exhibitions with one exhibition beginning this month. Two of these exhibits will include artwork by UMW students. The first exhibit, called Ritual, opens Wednesday Feb. 17 in duPont Gallery and will continue until Friday Feb. 26. The next two exhibits, Video: Shedding […]

Winter Preparedness Week, Nov. 29-Dec. 5.

Governor Proclaims Nov. 29-Dec. 5 as Winter Preparedness Week

Virginia forecast includes colder, wetter winter

RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe has proclaimed Nov. 29 through Dec. 5 as Winter Preparedness Week in Virginia, which serves as a reminder to prepare now before severe weather arrives.

“We can reduce the risk of loss of life and property during the winter months by taking measures before severe weather arrives, and follow the proper steps during and after winter storms,” Governor McAuliffe said.

Virginia could get a wetter-than-average and colder-than-average winter, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). On Nov. 19, the NWS predicted above-median precipitation amounts for December, January and February in Virginia due to a strong El Niño effect. NWS also predicted that temperatures might be slightly below median levels. The term El Niño refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.

No matter what the predictions are, a significant winter storm is always possible. If freezing rain is accumulating on power lines, that means it’s accumulating on trees, which could fall on power lines and cause an outage.
Keep in mind that an important part of winter weather planning is being prepared to stay where you are until conditions improve. To be ready, take these steps:

  • Get a kit. Basic emergency supplies include:
    • Food and water for three days (one gallon of water per person per day).
    • A battery-powered and/or hand-cranked radio with extra batteries.
    • For businesses and offices, bottled water, protein bars and a radio or TV to hear local information about whether it is safe to travel.
    • A power pack for recharging cell phones and other mobile devices.
  • Make a plan. Everyone needs an emergency plan:
    • Decide who your out-of-town emergency contact will be.
    • Where will you meet up with family members if you can’t return home?
    • Get an emergency plan worksheet at ReadyVirginia.gov.
  • Stay informed. Before, during and after a winter storm, you should:
    • Listen to local media for information and instructions from emergency officials.
    • Be aware of winter storm watches and warnings and road conditions.
    • Get where you need to go before the weather gets bad.
    • Get road condition information 24/7 by calling 511 or checkingwww.511Virginia.org
  • Download the Ready Virginia app. Free app for iPhone® and Android™ features:
    • Location-specific weather watches and warnings issued by the NWS.
    • Disaster news from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
    • A customizable family emergency plan that can be easily shared.
    • A checklist for gathering emergency supplies.

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Issued by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management 10501 Trade Court Richmond, VA 23236 (804) 897-6510

Buster-Williams to Present at College Board Regional Forum

Kimberley Buster-Williams, associate provost for enrollment management, has been selected to present at College Board’s Southern Regional Forum in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 17, 2016. Buster-Williams will be presenting with colleagues Dr. Katrina Myers-Caldwell and Diane Fuselier-Thompson. Dr. Katrina Myers-Caldwell is the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Northern Illinois University. Dr. Caldwell has a track record of successful strategic planning and implementation of diversity programs at Chicago-area higher education institutions. Diane Fuselier-Thompson is a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on the African American female narrative as it relates to persistence in engineering.

The conference session is titled, “We Check More Than One Racial Category. . . Are You Ready for Us?” and focuses on ways participants can become more knowledgeable about adjustment challenges that multiracial students face and ways to assists student affairs and admissions professionals with developing appropriate support services and outreach messages. Participants will also learn more about stories from Dartmouth College students featured in the book “Mixed-Multiracial College Students Tell Their Life Stories.”

The College Board connects students to college success and opportunity and was founded in 1900. Today, the membership association is made up of more than 6,000 of the world’s leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education. The Southern Region serves students and educators in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

IT Support Services – Notice of UMW Wireless Network Changes

What is happening?

Beginning on Monday, Nov. 16 at 7 a.m., the wireless networks known as “UMW” and “UMW Guest” will require a new login process.  Due to a failure of the old wireless login system, users have not been required to login to utilize “UMW” and “UMW Guest” wireless for the past several weeks.  On Monday, users will once again be required to login to access “UMW” and the “UMW Guest,” utilizing a new login system.  IT staff is still working to setup “UMW Secured” wireless, so it WILL NOT be available for several more weeks.

What is the plan?

Starting at 7 a.m. on 11/16, “UMW” and “UMW Guest” wireless will be taken offline.  At 7:15 a.m., the wireless networks will come back online utilizing the new login system.  This new login will be required for all mobile devices accessing the wireless network.

What do I need to do to connect?

“UMW” Wireless”  ALL UMW USERS WITH UMW ACCOUNTS SHOULD USE THE “UMW” WIRELESS NETWORK.  The “UMW” wireless network is configured to allow access to university resources, including Library resources and connections to UMW systems that the “UMW Guest” network will not permit.  Simply enter your NetID and Password, click the box to accept the terms of service, and click the “Login” button to access this wireless network.  Once you are logged in to “UMW,” users have access for 7 days before being required to login again.

“UMW Guest”  This network is provided for university guests.  It allows access to the internet only.  Users are required to create a guest login, or as an convenience, utilize a user’s current Google or Facebook credentials to login.  Once logged in to “UMW Guest,” users have access for 24 hours before being required to login again.

How do I get assistance?

If you experience any issues with this process, the Help Desk will open early on Monday beginning at 7 a.m.  Please contact us at 540-654-2255, helpdesk@umw.edu  or bring your mobile device to the Help Desk in Hurley Convergence Center room 112.

The new login screens you will see beginning on Monday, 11/16 will look similar to this:

Bauson and Guest Flutist to Host Concert, Nov. 14

Grace Bauson, faculty harpist and adjunct instructor of music, will present a free concert with guest flutist Elizabeth Robinson at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14 in the Pollard Recital Hall in Room 304. Robinson and Bauson will explore the expanding soundscapes of music for flute and harp in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Robinson currently performs as the third flute/piccolo of the Topeka Symphony, and the piccolo in the Salina Symphony and is winner of the 2012 National Flute Association Graduate Research Competition. Her dissertation Voice, Itinerant, and Air: “The Solo Flute Works of Toru Takemitsu,” was presented at the 2012 NFA Convention.

Bauson has performed as faculty with the American Youth Harp Ensemble in venues including Carnegie Hall, the White House, and the Kennedy Center. She has been a featured soloist at the Chautauqua Music Festival, with the Kokomo Symphony Orchestra, the Ball State University Graduate Concerto Competition and in chamber music series in the United States and Canada. She has taught at various universities, including James Madison University, Southern Virginia University, the Rocky Mountain Springs Harp Program and the University of Mary Washington. One of Bauson’s performances at Washington and Lee University can be viewed here.

The program will also include pieces by flutist-composer Lowell Liebermann and Pulitzer prize winner Zhou Long, among other works. For more information, call 540.654.1012.